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Heal UR life: How to deal with addiction?

Dr Roshan Jain

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru

5 min read

Addiction is a process that doesn’t happen overnight; it is a gradual process. It can be a habit or compulsion to do anything. From shopping endlessly to alcohol to drugs and even domestic violence, it is a dysfunction that looks like a ‘reward’ often lacking the concern of its dire consequences.

In this new episode of Heal UR Life, I would like to explain what addiction is, how we can overcome it, and what the best ways to get rid of it!

Addiction or dependency is never a good idea, we should always have a choice and you should never be controlled by what you do. One of the most common addictions that plague youngsters of the nation today is smartphones. However, we are addicted to everything around us! It is the accessibility of things in these times that have made us addicted to certain things. Same is the case with certain foods, coffee, tea or even people for that matter. As the preconceived notions go, we need to widen our spectrum of addiction and look at it in a different way from what we already know.

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According to data from the Ministry of Social Justice, 26% of alcohol abusers and 25% of cannabis abusers show symptoms of dependency in India. When you are dependent on things and they run out, you begin to panic and realise how dependant U R. For example, tobacco is running out during the lockdown period, people who are addicted to nicotine do not know what to do without smokes. Such a situation is never a good sign.

You may ask what dependency is and how you can find out if you too show signs of addiction or dependency! Well, addiction is when people consume or use certain things on an everyday basis. In case of alcohol, a person who is drinking every day is more likely to be addicted. Alcohol, cigarettes or drugs give the abuser a sense of compulsion, or the need to have it, which leads to struggle. Once that habit kicks in, there is no stopping. I like to call it the three Cs of addiction—compulsion, Craving and Loss of Control.

According to data from the Ministry of Social Justice, 26% of alcohol abusers and 25% of cannabis abusers show symptoms of dependency in India.

Drinking every day and suddenly going cold turkey might not be a sure-shot sign of addiction from a diagnostic point of view. The signs and symptoms have to show for about a year to be called an addiction. Call it an excessive drinking habit or binge drinking, an addict tends to drink despite showing signs of difficulty in social behaviour at work, in a relationship or even when facing financial constraints.

    Signs of an addict

  • Unable to stay away from the substance
  • Lack of self-control
  • Denial of their problem causing behaviour
  • Lack of emotional responsibility

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Drinking pattern is one of the first things that’s checked among people. Questions like how many drinks do you take, frequency of drinking, among others describe addiction. The body becomes dependant and gets used to alcohol and with the time you need to drink more to get the same effects.

Moving on to drugs, the features of addiction remain the same. The three Cs stay the same. The difference with drugs is that immediate consequences start showing right after consumption. For example, cocaine starts showing its effect instantly, but cigarettes take years to show its problems. Marijuana doesn’t cause physical dependency like in the case of nicotine or alcohol. It’s more psychological with cannabis and the sort of addiction that takes years to realise. The problem with drugs, alcohol and nicotine is that over time, you crave it because of the physical dependency on it.

Addiction meter

  • Alcohol – Most toxic substance
  • Cocaine – Psychotic behaviour
  • Smoking – Most addictive chemical
  • Sleeping pills/tranquiliser – Develop tolerance, highly dependant

With the lockdown in place, withdrawal symptoms start showing up due to the lack of supply. This is when a feeling of anxiousness and irritability will kick in. Insomnia and anxiety will show up as well. Restlessness and shakings in significant cases are very apparent. In severe cases, an addict can also get fits, get confused, develop psychosis and can go into a coma as well.

As far as dealing with addicts is concerned, severe patients need to be taken into a hospital emergency instantly. Family & loved ones face the most trauma in such situations. I suggest that the family or an individual should grab this opportunity of the lockdown to seek professional help if the addiction is too strong. Medicines like tranquilisers work on people who have mild withdrawal symptoms. However, those with severe withdrawal symptoms require detoxification medicine as a substitute. These medicines are available strictly on a prescription basis. Online consultation is one way to get a prescription for these medications if you are feeling severe withdrawal symptoms.

The alcohol withdrawal symptoms can show up within 48 to 72 hours, and medical help is necessary as it can be dangerous. Nicotine, on the other hand, can take a week or two to show withdrawal symptoms. However, a healthy diet and increasing exercise can help you come out of the addiction. Don’t panic, seek medical help and let the medical professional figure out UR category of addiction to suggest appropriate treatment options. There is nothing wrong with seeking medical assistance. Will power is required to stay off something, but first, seek medical help to deal with addiction or substance abuse.

When I meet an addict, it is always about asking the right kind of questions and open-ended questions that are comforting. Qualified practitioners never demean their patients, in fact, act as a solid support system. Questions like “Tell me about UR drinking habits?” “Do you think you drink more than you should?” “Has drinking gone up with time?” are the right way to get answers. It is these kinds of questions that people open up to and finally acknowledge their problems. When they are ready for reform, a gentle nudge from loved ones helps them come out of addiction.

If you have any questions regarding addiction, please email me at